Stephen King’s Advice for Writers

Stephen King’s Advice for Writers

His advice has been well publicized, but I thought it worth repeating:

 

  1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”
  2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”
  3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.” (e.g., “he said happily” and “she said angrily”, etc.)
  4. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”
  5. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”
  6. Read, read, read. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
  7. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”
  8. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”
  9. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”
Stay Creative!

Stay Creative!

Eight cool things about creativity

Why Inspiration may be the biggest enemy to your success

The thing about success is that it is elusive to most of us. It is a risky thing to work at something for weeks, months or even years before seeing results. In the beginning everyone is your biggest supporter. Everyone likes a good success story; more than that, people just like new, including you. That fresh, clean smell of a brand, spanking new project is like euphoria unleashed. The air feels cleaner, your back’s a little straighter and you have a positive word for everyone who crosses your path.

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Even if you haven’t quite done anything yet; you’ve thought it through, talked about it, prayed over it, read as much as you could take on it. You’ve inspired yourself into a type of: Tony Robbins/T.D Jakes/Joel Olsteen fit. You and your parents, mentors, sisters, brothers and closest friends all agree that this is the perfect time to do it.

So there it is. Grinning like a guy in an ad for a Colgate commercial, you give your sleeves the proverbial roll-up, turn from the inspiration to the task it takes to get there and…sigh.

 

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It is then you remember the errand you have to run, that phone call to what’s-his-name that has to be made now because you haven’t spoken to him in forever. You find everything to do but work. I could call this procrastination, but this really wouldn’t be digging deep enough.

Hardest decisions

It is that fear of, I am not enough that creeps in after the dust clears and all you can see is labor. Let’s face it inspiration doesn’t last forever. It’s like falling in love. At some point in the relationship, your stomach doesn’t do that, ‘thing’ when you see him, down the line you won’t think of him every hour or giggle to yourself when you do. Nope. It’s doesn’t mean that the love is gone. It simply means that you have settled into something more sustainable. The energy of love is still there but it has been redirected to the needful things…nursing him back to health when he or she is sick, washing her clothes, remembering to order the Chinese food without shrimp because he’s allergic.

Likewise, with projects the energy of shouting it to the mountaintop has to be redirected to actually developing the business plan, making the cold calls and perhaps hearing a 101 ‘nos’ before you hear a ‘yes’. Writers know this all too well. We spend months, even years creating our masterpiece hoping that someone will connect with our story without even a glimmer of indication that they will. It can be both exhilarating and debilitating at the same time

The thing with inspiration is that it is a great starter, a springboard. But too often we keep returning to that starting point instead of trudging ahead. Tremble in the face of fear, but move forward anyway. There is always the fear that you will invest time and money in this and your project will mock you and then kneel over and die. A tiny dark voice will whisper that you are not enough; no one will ever read, invest or believe in this thing and that they will all stare at you with glazed eyes in the middle of your presentation. Your books will sit in an unused corner of your basement. There will be that sickly feeling inside that all those who are on board with you will be embarrassed and disappointed by this fantastic dream of yours. And yet you will have to tell yourself that this will work and it is meant to be. When you stop believing it, you will have to say it again and again until you believe it again. Eventually you will have to find that place inside that will sustain you through this task. It is not always inspiration. It is will. It is God. It is this fine line that separates the winners from those that just like winners–we all do.

This thing of yours is not for any prize or accolade but it is because something has weld up inside of you and won’t go away until it is realized. It is the God inside of you telling you that this is His plan, His will, His way. But it won’t work itself. When inspiration kicks rocks, work it still.

Live the moment: the writing process

Live the moment: the writing process

When I first started writing my book back in 2007 it seemed like a process with no end. I was working fulltime as a night auditor; days were for sleeping and nights, after my work was done, were for writing. Perfect. A couple pages a night was all I could manage. I remember thinking how happy I would be once it was done and ready to send to a publisher.

A year later I was finished yah! Now on to a publisher. I would finally feel happy once I found a publisher or agent (I was seeking both). I knew the process would take time, additionally, my novel although one of inspiration was quite edgy. I was delving into places that were kind of taboo in Christendom. But I was determined not to change it. But no one was biting. In fact I couldn’t keep up with the rejection letters. One agent who accepted queries via email sent me a flat ‘no’, the morning after I submitted my query online; it seemed as if she couldn’t reject it fast enough. Sigh. Living-in-the-moment

If only they would request to read it all they would see how good it was and then I could rest easy and finally be at peace that this portion of the process was over. I could finally proclaim that I was a legitimate writer.

Meanwhile I was generally unhappy and restless and prayed to God to just get me published…geez. I walked around with my proverbial head hung, feeling kinda forgotten.

And then, finally, a response from a small independent publisher who liked the three chapters I’d sent and wanted to read the entire manuscript. I was thrilled. This was it. And then it seemed to me that she was taking her own sweet time getting back to me. So what she had other clients? I was the most important one (tears)! I thought; once I hear from her I’ll rest easy.

Months later they made me an offer. They wanted to publish the book. Yah! Now I know you’re thinking this is the part where I was thrilled out of my mind singing and dancing in the rain, putting Fred Astaire to shame. Well, this isn’t that part. I honestly waited to

feel it– that peace that would settle upon me like warm rays of sunlight. It didn’t come. Instead there was this kind of melancholy, a sadness of which I couldn’t find the source. And then the fretting kicked in as I worried about, how long it would take to publish, book sales, whether or not it good was enough and on and on.

It wasn’t until months later that I took time to reflect on how far I had come. I realized I hadn’t lived any of those moments; the peace that comes from putting it on paper, the joy of having a couple of close friends read my work and getting great feedback, the thrill that someone wanted to publish it. I had pushed those moments aside each time, seeking future satisfaction.

Most of our lives are spent seeking and searching; it seems what surrounds us at the moment is trivial, brings no peace to our lives because something bigger, more significant is not too far away. We live for tomorrow because surely it has to be better than this. We will be happy when…

I realized often we fail to enjoy the moments that make life so great and that peace isn’t suddenly brought on by an event, a place or even a person. It’s internal. We already possess it. Everything you truly need or desire is in you, now. Today. Find it and be happy now. Love the one you’re with just as they are. Kiss and hug your babies before they start behaving. Live the moment. It’s really all you have.

 

When should authors work for free

Recently I planned a book launch affair. It was to be a Wine and Words event and along with a sampling of various wines each attendee would get a copy of my novel, In Three Days, all for one price. Now I know we as authors don’t typically charge for book signings, but this was different. It was to be held at a lovely café and did I mention free wine? The tickets weren’t exactly zapped up at record speed and eventually the event was cancelled.

Recently I got an offer to speak at a luncheon for an exclusive country club in my area. They wanted me to come and talk about my book and experience as a local author. On the invite the PR person asked about my fee. I was absolutely thrilled. Here I was hosting fancy wine events (or almost) and now I was being asked to speak at this opulent club and I’d been an author for all of several months. And they were going to pay meee.

I immediately began doing research on typical fees for authors both new and established. I found rates which I thought were ridiculously inflated and then constantly reminded myself that hey, I’m worth it. I did some more research and found that some authors didn’t charge anything (ha…ha…I’m doing the Snoopy laugh) I finally settle on a “going rate.” After all, he did ask me.

Funny thing, immediately after I submitted my fee I felt this twinge that I should have waited. I never heard back from the guy again.

I can construct a million different reasons to explain these setbacks.  I could go on and on as to why folks weren’t waiting in line for my tickets. And I can find a million more to justify the silence on the other end of the email to the PR guy.  But later, I received some wise counsel (amazing how you always get that after you need it) and remembered some information I’d received from some other established writers with which you may or may not agree. It is as follows:

Most signings of any kind are free. And even if it is an event, such as a book launch where you simply want your friends to come and celebrate, guess what? The wine and cheese are on you. Purchasing your book should be optional. They come to celebrate with you, not pay for you.

Speaking engagements are often free. What?! Yep. I know. Now no one would expect J.K. Rowling or John Grisham to speak too often for free. But most of us do not possess the status and brand of Rowling and Grisham. When people mention our name people will most likely ask “who?” But those guys? Not so much. In the beginning we may do a lot of stuff for free. But really, it is never free. I am a strong believer in the law of reciprocity, or the law of sowing and reaping. Simply put, what goes around comes around. Also, the exposure we gain is priceless. And proving ourselves to what will eventually be our audience is essential. People only tend to invest in the new when the risk is low. Those things that negate risk include: recommendations by others, little or no cost or effort and the likelihood that they will enjoy what is being offered based on preferences.

Free opportunities often breed paid opportunities. Every time you are in front of an audience you are gaining exposure–that, you cannot beat. And as one author/speaker pointed out, as you speak or present your audience may include the answer to your next gig and possibly a paying gig as it did for the author who lent this advice.

The bottom line is that free may be free. But sometimes it is not. And if that statement was confusing just remember that you have to invest before others invest in you.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you.